Here Are The 10 Best Places To Visit For Halloween
No matter how good your costume is or how creepy your cocktails are, sometimes the only way to really do Halloween is to go someplace spooky, scary, and fun. Fortunately, there are plenty of towns that do the holiday better than even the best-decorated house on the block.
These are the cities with roots that tie back to the pagan festival Samhain, which spawned Halloween we know today, or the Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday in which the living briefly welcome back the dead to eat, drink, and celebrate. It also includes cities with a good old-fashioned reputation for being haunted or that just really know how to do up October, filling their calendars with costume contests, dog parades (and people parades), harvest festivals, ghost tours, and more.
Below, find the 10 cities that celebrate Halloween right. — both on the day itself and all month long.
A town that's synonymous with Halloween, Salem, is infamous for its 17th-century witch trials. Today, it's a year-round tourist destination for all things witchcraft, but it really shines in October. You can go ghost hunting, see a psychic, or — if you're really brave — participate in a seance. Don't miss the Haunted Magic Show, Halloween Pet Parade, and the Colonial Heaven and Hell Ball.
El Día de los Muertos (aka the Day of the Dead) is huge in San Miguel de Allende. Preparations start on October 30, and festivities go through November 2 — most of which occur in the city's main square. Colorful altars are placed in the streets, in churches, and at restaurants and shops. There's a pumpkin-carving contest, a parade where everyone dresses as skeletons, and plenty of partying in the streets.
One of the most haunted cities in America, Savannah is full of Southern charm and Southern ghosts (they're very polite). Spanish moss drips from the live oak trees in the historic downtown, providing a spooky backdrop for an after-hours ghost tour by foot or by hearse. If you're really brave, you can stay in one those haunted places, but there are less-spooky activities, too. Kids can go trick-or-treating in the Historic District and adults can try Oktoberfest.
Technically, Halloween is a spinoff of the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain, a pagan celebration that welcomes the darkness, and it all began in Boyne Valley. Today, Ireland celebrates Samhain/Halloween with a series of festivals in October, most notably Púca. It has Celtic music, Halloween markets, faery games, lectures about the history of Samhain, and haunted walking tours
Another Southern city with a reputation for being deeply haunted, New Orleans is a good choice if you prefer to party while you're spooked. Stay in a haunted hotel, dress up for the Krewe of Boo! parade, go on one of its many ghost tours, visit the voodoo museum, and hit up the Halloween Balcony Party in the French Quarter.
While you can find all the usual spooky suspects (haunted houses, ghost tours, etc.), Philly's pièce de résistance is the Eastern State Penitentiary, and it's not for fright dabblers. An abandoned prison that shut down in the early '70s, Eastern State is a castle-like structure that you can take a night tour of — casually named "Terror Behind the Walls." Here, you just might see and hear what other visitors have: shadowy figures and disembodied sounds. In October, it has a slew of additional offerings, including five haunted houses, themed bars, and live entertainment.
Home to Knott's Berry Farm, Buena Park becomes Boo-uena Park in October, which bills itself as the Halloween capital of Southern California. Knott's Berry Farm turns into Knott's Scary Farm, which offers 17 haunted experiences. The city also has a vampire-pirate dinner show, a fall festival, and Boo at the Zoo, which is "more merry than scary." Plus, it's just a few miles from Disneyland, which has its own Halloween festivities.
A town can't be named "Tombstone" and be casual about Halloween. Rooted very much in its Wild West history, Tombstone has ghost tours year-round (try the Ghost & Murder Trolley Tour or the Gunfighter & Ghost Tour) along with an old spooky cemetery. But in October, it also has pumpkin-carving and costume contests, making it popular for families with young kids.
With its own ties to Samhain, Scotland's got a bagpipe full of spooky goings-on in October (the country has its own Ghost Trail). In Edinburgh, there's the Samhuinn Fire Festival ("Samhuinn" is Gaelic for Samhain), which features bonfires, drumming, and plenty of eeriness; the Edinburgh Zoo Spooktackular; and true crime tours. Plus, the city also hosts Cocktail Week, Comic Con, and Oktoberfest during the month.
A city that truly embraces Halloween, Chattanooga has plenty to do all month long. Ruby Falls Haunted Cavern is considered one of the most haunted sites in the country, and you can take a lantern-lit ghost tourof the cavern. Other highlights include Dread Hallow, the Haunted Market, a fashionable costume party, and walking ghost tours.
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Featured photo: Tiff Ng/Pexels.